Publication details [#19625719]

Panther, Klaus-Uwe. 2022. Attribute transfer: The figurative interpretation of shifted modifiers. Review of Cognitive Linguistics 20 (1) : 130–155.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language


The rhetorical trope hypallage, here called Attribute Transfer (AT), has been exploited artistically and creatively since antiquity in poetic and narrative discourse, but it is also used in ordinary language. This study focuses on modifier-noun constructions in which the prenominal modifier (attribute) is “shifted” from one position to another – a “transfer” that triggers metonymic interpretations. AT constitutes a violation of the iconically motivated proximity principle (Givón 2001) according to which the conceptual and functional closeness of linguistic units is mirrored in their morphosyntactic structure. The principle of proximity competes with metonymic motivation – the latter prevailing at the expense of the former. An interesting structural parallelism exists between AT and the shift of the negator not from its “logical” position to another syntactic slot (‘neg-transportation’), which again exhibits a violation of the proximity principle. The article concludes with some suggestions for further research, especially cross-linguistic and typological investigations.